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The eero Home WiFi System: Get Meshed

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Subject: Networking
Manufacturer: eero

Living the Mesh Life

Mesh networking is the current hot topic when it comes to Wi-Fi. Breaking from the trend of increasingly powerful standalone Wi-Fi routers that has dominated the home networking scene over the past few years, mesh networking solutions aim to provide wider and more even Wi-Fi coverage in your home or office through a system of multiple self-configuring and self-managing hotspots. In theory, this approach not only provides better wireless coverage overall, it also makes the setup and maintenance of a Wi-Fi network easier for novice and experienced users alike.

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Multiple companies have recently launched Wi-Fi mesh systems, including familiar names such as Google, Netgear, and Linksys. But this new approach to networking has also attracted newcomers, including San Francisco-based eero, one of the first companies to launch a consumer-targeted Wi-Fi mesh platform. eero loaned us their primary product, the 3-piece eero Home WiFi System, and we've spent a few weeks testing it as our home router.

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This review is the first part of a series of articles looking at Wi-Fi mesh systems, and it will focus on the capabilities and user experience of the eero Home WiFi System. Future articles will compare eero to other mesh platforms and traditional standalone routers, and look at comparative wireless performance and coverage.

Box Contents & Technical Specifications

As mentioned, we're looking at the 3-pack eero Home WiFi System (hereafter referred to simply as "eero"), a bundle that gives you everything you need to get your home or office up and running with a Wi-Fi mesh system. The box includes three eeros, three power adapters, and a 2-foot Ethernet cable.

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Each eero device is identical in terms of design and capability, measuring in at 4.75 inches wide, 4.75 inches deep, and 1.34 inches tall. They each feature two Gigabit Ethernet ports, a single USB 2.0 port (currently restricted to diagnostic use only), and are powered by two 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi radios capable of supporting 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac. In addition, an eero network supports WPA2 Personal encryption, static IPs, manual DNS, IP reservations and port forwarding, and Universal Plug and Play (UPnP).

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Continue reading our early testing of the eero Home WiFi system!

Setup & Configuration

Unlike most traditional routers which utilize browser-based management interfaces, the eero system relies on a mobile app for setup and management. This means that you'll need an iOS or Android device with an active Wi-Fi or cellular data connection to get started. Upon launching the eero app on your mobile device, you'll next need to create an eero account linked to your email address and mobile number, as eero uses text message-based verification codes for authentication and setup.

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Once that's out of the way, you can now begin to set up your Wi-Fi mesh network with the help of eero's guided tutorial. The eero devices arrive in the box labeled "1, 2, and 3" but all of them are functionally identical so you can start with any device. Grab an eero, its power cord, and the included Ethernet cable (if you don't have one already) and head to the location of your WAN connection, typically provided by a cable or DSL modem.

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The eero app walks you through each step clearly, but it boils down to the following process:

  1. Unplug your modem and existing router
  2. Connect your modem to either of the eero's Ethernet ports
  3. Plug in your eero and modem

After a few minutes to initialize, you'll be prompted by the eero app to switch over to a cellular data connection (or separate, active Wi-Fi network, if available), where a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi will work to identify and assign your new eero. Next, you'll identify the location of your first eero (office, bedroom, basement, etc.), name your network, and secure it via WPA2 Personal encryption.

At this point, your new Wi-Fi network is up and running, albeit via a single eero. To really put the "mesh" in mesh networking, you'll next need to add the remaining eero devices. As the eero app explains, the key is to ensure that the location of your second eero is within adequate wireless range of your first eero, which is typically within 40 feet. Once that location is determined, simply plug the second eero into power and follow the steps in the app to "add another eero." Repeat for the third device.

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The three eeros included in the base package will provide coverage for most medium to large homes and offices, but you can add additional eeros as needed, available in 2-packs for $349 and individually for $199. The company suggests a ratio of one eero per 1,000 square feet of desired coverage area, although that guideline will of course vary based on factors such as building materials, layout, and the presence of other wireless signals.

Living the Mesh Life

With your mesh network active, you can monitor network conditions and access advanced configuration settings from the eero app, even from outside your local network. The app provides an overview of the eero devices and their relative signal strength, a list of connected devices, and access to features such as port forwarding, IP reservations, DNS servers, and DHCP ranges. The eero doesn't provide access to every feature or configuration option available on high-end standalone routers, but it contains enough to suit most home and office networks.

That said, let's take a look at the main features and benefits:

Wired & Wireless: The eero hotspots are designed to communicate wirelessly, and they'll automatically utilize both Wi-Fi radios to ensure the best balance between keeping in touch with each other and providing coverage to your wireless clients. However, if you already have a hardwired Ethernet run between eeros, you can wire them together to improve performance and take the burden of intra-network communication off of the eero's Wi-Fi radios. Each eero's two Ethernet ports are "smart" ports which auto-detect the type of connection (WAN, eero network backbone, remote wired device, etc.) and configure themselves accordingly, so you can plug just about any type of Ethernet connection into any port.

Single SSID: When you first set up the eero network, you'll create a single network SSID and password. Aside from the optional guest network, that's it. There's no 5GHz or 2.4GHz distinctions, no "network-1" and "network-2" bifurcations, just a single network name and password for all of your devices regardless of capability. As your devices connect to the network and move around your home, the eero will automatically manage the details of connection point and network type (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac) and seamlessly hand off the connection as necessary. To the end user, this process is invisible, but you can see the connection details, including which eero a particular device is currently connected to, in the eero app.

Automatic QoS: With the huge number of wireless devices in the average home and the demands of high-bandwidth activities such as HD video streaming and video conferencing, Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities are quickly becoming a necessity for home routers. Simply put, QoS prioritizes your network traffic to either prevent a single device from hogging all of the bandwidth (such as a Steam game download causing buffering during the family's Netflix marathon) or ensure that a particular device or app always has top priority for Internet bandwidth (such as forcing Netflix or Steam downloads to take a second seat to Skype video chats).

The good news is that eero supports automatically configured QoS, testing your Internet speeds every day and intelligently learning how and when your devices require bandwidth to ensure that everything runs smoothly. The bad news is that there's no manual configuration options that let the user override the automatic QoS. Most users will be quite well served with eero's automatic approach, and in our testing it worked flawlessly, but some users with more demanding network configurations and requirements may be frustrated by the lack of control.

Automatic Updates: Beyond automatic configuration of your mesh network, another eero benefit is automatic, and frequent, firmware updates. Every few weeks, your eero network will receive updates addressing bug patches, security fixes, performance enhancements, and even new features. These will be downloaded and installed automatically when your network is not in use, but you can also manually check for and install updates via the eero app. This might be an issue for users with mission critical network requirements (as your Wi-Fi network will go down for several minutes while the updates are applied) but it ensures that users, especially those with limited technical experience, will always have the latest security and performance fixes.

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Family Profiles: Continuing the "user friendly" vibe of the eero experience, users can configure Family Profiles from the eero app, assigning specific devices to individual family members. Once assigned, the network administrators (a.k.a. "parents") can manually block Internet access to a profile's devices, or configure a scheduled time period during which Internet access is unavailable. Examples of how this can be useful include manually blocking a child's Internet access until their homework is done, or blocking the whole family's access during dinner in an attempt to avoid discussion-killing Facebook checks.

VPN and USB, Where Art Thou?

Although the eero boasts many impressive benefits, a few omissions and limitations may make it unsuitable to power your next Wi-Fi network. First, unlike many high-end standalone routers, the eero does not offer any VPN functionality on-board. It will pass through an existing VPN connection if available via another networking device just fine, but don't expect to ditch your current VPN server.

The second issue relates to USB functionality. As discussed earlier, each eero includes a USB 2.0 Type-A port on the back of the device. Many other networking devices also include USB ports, and allow users to connect printers or storage for easy network access. In the case of the eero, however, its USB port is limited to diagnostic functions only, so you'll need to account for any backup drives or printers when switching. There's a chance that USB device support may be added to eero via a future software update, but there is currently no confirmation on that from the company.

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The final issue is Ethernet ports. Although the complete eero system provides you with six Gigabit Ethernet ports, you'll only have two of them at any given location (and only one for your primary eero, as the other will be occupied by the WAN connection to your modem). This stands in contrast to most standalone routers which include four or more ports, and it means that you may need to purchase an Ethernet switch to provide a wired connection to all of the devices that require one.

Performance Preview

As mentioned, we'll be providing a more in-depth look at how the eero compares to other mesh systems soon, but we wanted to address our initial experience. Our test eero mesh network replaced one powered by a single ASUS RT-AC3200 in a roughly 5,000 square foot home. The ASUS router was able to provide coverage to all areas of the home, although performance was limited in the two bedrooms at the end farthest from the router.

Testing from one of those bedrooms using the network bandwidth measuring utility iPerf, we measured maximum bandwidth of about 13 megabits per second when connected via 802.11n at 2.4GHz to the ASUS router. This is enough to browse the Web, but is painfully slow for intra-network transfers.

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After setting up the eero mesh Wi-Fi network, and with one of the eero hotspots in the hallway about 15 feet away, performance in that same bedroom jumped to 287 megabits per second via 802.11ac, an improvement of greater than 2,100 percent.

Pricing & Conclusion

Our initial experience shows that eero succeeds in improving the coverage and speed of your home network when compared to a traditional standalone router, but this success doesn't come cheap. With a list price of $499 (street prices range between $400 and $450) for the 3-pack, eero is a pricey upgrade compared to even the highest-end routers which generally top out in the mid-$300s. The lack of advanced features such as on-board VPN, the limited control over features like QoS, and the currently useless USB port may also make the eero less attractive to power users or those with unique networking requirements.

But those aren't necessarily the users eero is targeting. For the less technically savvy, the eero is a Wi-Fi revelation, providing a "set it and forget it" experience with great coverage and performance. Even better, the eero's automatic management and diagnostics mean that you, or the hapless relative or neighbor to whom you provide free technical support, may never need to power cycle a router again, or stare bewildered at a series of blinking lights. That alone is reason to consider the eero, even with just a 1- or 2-pack configuration for smaller homes.

Powerful, standalone routers aren't going anywhere anytime soon, but mesh Wi-Fi networking is poised to be the future of our increasingly wireless world, and the eero Home WiFi System is a fantastic, if pricey, point of entry.


February 17, 2017 | 12:49 PM - Posted by Kathelwing

I have seen a previous article comparing the Google and Netgear options. Do you have any performance data to compare these three options yet?

February 17, 2017 | 02:03 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

We just got the Google mesh system in this week - Jim will likely be looking at that next!

February 17, 2017 | 01:34 PM - Posted by agello24 (not verified)

way way way overpriced. easier to get some range extenders. i bought a range extender from belkin at target for $50. its not the best, but its a cheaper deal than $400.

February 17, 2017 | 02:19 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Did you just really compare a mesh network with a wireless extender.... ::forehead palm::

February 17, 2017 | 02:35 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

They can be set up as a mesh network, so your point is? His point is valid on that you can set up a mesh for hundreds cheeper with the know how.

February 17, 2017 | 02:47 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You do realize an extender by nature cuts the bandwidth in half each time you add one. They aren't the same thing.

February 17, 2017 | 03:16 PM - Posted by Bri (not verified)

Even mesh boxes have this issue unless they are implementing multiple radios.

February 17, 2017 | 02:55 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

No they dont. You can setup a multi-point AP system, but they are simply repeaters/extenders with no automated client hand-off ability. THAT is the benefit of a true mesh system; native client pass-off between APs.

February 17, 2017 | 05:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

As most extenders are built on the exact same SOC they can be flashed with alternative firmware which can implement whatever form of mesh you desire. Ad-hoc mode is a form of mesh BTW. Like i said, with a bit of know how, range extenders are EXACTLY the same. Only difference is software and support. That is excluding the very rare dual radio mesh boxes that can be found.

February 17, 2017 | 02:37 PM - Posted by Mike S. (not verified)

The problem with devices like this is that if it stops working, support stops, or the company doesn't feel like patching a disclosed security problem you're out of luck.

My house is 2000 square feet but the interior walls are stone because it was a tiny stone house 70 years ago. Wireless connectivity sucks. Powerline networking devices work wonderfully for me for a year or two and then stop. Given the choice between the fourth or fifth set of powerline networking devices, eero or something like it, and running cables I just gave up and ran cables. Now I have wired gigabit between my access points.

February 17, 2017 | 02:52 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

When doing these reviews/tests please pay particular attention to the more advanced features. Like the ability to enable/disable NAT versus bridge mode connections (or even offering bridge mode). The ability to even set your local subnet range, DHCP options/reservations, etc (looking at you Luma).

A LOT of these systems are painfully simply with respect to anything beyond stupid-simple features.

Netgear's Orbi cant do a wired back-haul setup at all, only wireless. Luma's can do a wired back-haul, but only in a bizarre daisy-chain setup (AP1 wired to AP2 then wired to AP3).

With Googles system you loose virtually all advanced features if you enable bridge mode, making it pointless in this scenario despite having the feature.

Most current reviews I have read haven't touched much on these missing features, only the "overall benefit" of a mesh system. This is an area you all could definitely add some value too if you provide this extra info when comparing mesh systems.

In the end after trying out several mesh systems, I settled on Eero's myself.

February 17, 2017 | 05:15 PM - Posted by ipkh (not verified)

I'm unclear on your testing methodology. How many hops, 1 eero to base eero or more? How far is bedroom from base eero? I find this review seriously lacking in details and only providing 1 data point is entirely unusual for this site.

February 18, 2017 | 08:45 AM - Posted by Dave McLain (not verified)

The new products like this one or the ones from Google or Netgear are interesting and even though they are really expensive they might save the day in some situations.

My house (frame construction) is about 2000 sq ft with a basement and it is easily covered using a single Unifi AC-Lite AP mounted on the ceiling in the stairwell but in another house using different construction it might not be worth a damn! You just never know with wireless.

Good preliminary article and I'm looking forward to a follow up with another similar product or two.

February 18, 2017 | 09:07 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Luma supports traditional Star configuration for Ethernet Backhaul. I have mine setup that way. The Luma is far from perfect, but great for the mobile, automation, and Streaming devices throughout my home that I can't or don't want to connect via Wired Ethernet. (Phones, Tablets, Laptops, Wink Hub, Roku(s), Sony Android TV, etc...)

https://support.lumahome.com/hc/en-us/articles/222478268-Does-Luma-suppo...

February 18, 2017 | 09:49 AM - Posted by fvbounty

Here's my results with 2 Erro's, sorry for such a long post, just copied and pasted from a post I made on another site....

Well I started this thread instead of posting more info in the Google wifi thread. I now have the results of the Erro routers vs my D-Link 655 2.4GHZ router and my TP Link AC1750 5 and 2.4 GHZ router, the d-link was in my office and the TP-Link was hooked up in my front room by cat 6 cables, I had 3 SSID one for the D-Link and 2 for the TP-Link. Here are the readings I got off my Nexus 6P cell phone for the 5 GHZ band I used my Asus laptop to get the speeds off the 2.5 GHZ band for all tests. The first set of speeds are from my old setup and the second set are from the Erro mesh network! My computer hooked up by cat 6 gets 120.13 Mbps down and 6.07 up from Comcast

5 GHZ speeds TP Link

Office - 119.4 Mbps down and 6.2 up

Bedroom - 119.2 down and 6.2 up

Kitchen - 113.62 down and 6.3 up

Front room - 119.2 down and 6.1 up

Middle of Basement - 96.8 down and 6.3 up

Front Porch - 118.5 down and 6.4 up

2.4 GHZ speeds D-Link 2.4 router

Office - 46.8 Mbps down and 6.1 up

Bedroom - 25.3 down and 6.6 up

Kitchen - 36.0 down and 6.3 up

Front room - 10.4 down and 6.3 up

Middle of basement - 34.21 down and 6.4 up

front porch - 8.15 down and 6.1 up

Ok now for the Erro's speeds, first the 5 GHZ speeds.

Office - 118.83 Mbps down and 6.40 up

Bedroom - 119.13 down and 6.34 up

Kitchen - 119.32 down and 6.23 up

Front room - 119.70 down and 6.19 up

Middle of basement - 85.40 down and 6.41 up

Front porch - 119.36 down and 6.36 up

And finally the 2.4 GHZ on the Erro routers.

Office - 88.46 Mbps down and 6.02 up

Bedroom - 69.29 down and 6.01 up

Kitchen - 79.22 down and 5.99 up

Front room - 55.27 down and 5.91 up

Middle of Basement - 72.83 down and 5.98 up

Front porch - 75.99 down and 6.03 up

Well has you can see the 5 GHZ band on both my old router setup and the new Erro mesh network is about the same, but on the 2.4Ghz band the Erro's are kicking butt 3 times the speed and this is where most of my stuff runs on, Echo's, Roku's, Chromcast so all in all I'm very happy and now only one SSID for all the bands, no more having to connect to the 5 or 2.4 band, Erro does it automatically. One thing you should know I have both Erro's hooked up to my network by cat 6, if you used wifi to hook up the second Erro you will get a drop in speed.
____

February 19, 2017 | 02:36 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I really don't mean to be a dick (honestly), but you wrote "Erro" instead of eero like 8 times. You did nice work with your measurements, but the product is called eero.

February 19, 2017 | 09:03 AM - Posted by fvbounty

That's what happens to you when you get old (68)...no problem thanks for the heads up.

February 19, 2017 | 05:31 AM - Posted by biohazard918

How is this better then googles solution? You can get a 3 pack of google wifis with similar specs for 300 or you could pickup 3 onhubs with 3x3 mimo for the same amount.

February 19, 2017 | 06:06 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Mainly as Googles has some stupid design limitations, like not properly supporting bridge-mode configs. It can do it, but you loose all mesh functionality if you do so, making it pointless as its primarily a mesh product.

February 19, 2017 | 01:28 PM - Posted by Shambles (not verified)

Unlike most traditional routers which utilize browser-based management interfaces, the eero system relies on a mobile app for setup and management. This means that you'll need an iOS or Android device with an active Wi-Fi or cellular data connection to get started. Upon launching the eero app on your mobile device, you'll next need to create an eero account linked to your email address and mobile number, as eero uses text message-based verification codes for authentication and setup.

Here's where this product completely loses me:

Requires the company in order for the gear to function at all, anything happens to the company or they change the service they provide and my gear suddenly becomes paper weights. Basically they own your device, you don't.

Collects your email for no good reason

Collects your phone number for no good reason

Also installs software on your most personal device which does who knows what with all the potential privacy and security problems that can be associated with that.

All of this is done instead of a simple HTTP access or sync buttons on the devices which would be simpler and cheaper to develop. Clearly they are more interested in you as a product than their wifi devices. You wouldn't let Linksys demand your email, phone number and access to your phone to get a route to work, why on earth would you let this company?

February 19, 2017 | 11:42 PM - Posted by razor512

Those products are insanely overpriced, and have throughput issues as more APs are added. It is far cheaper to simply take your old routers, and connect them in a LAN to LAN config, and use them as wired access points.

The problem with devices like the eero and other similar devices, is that they use low powered radios, instead of a high transmit power and high sensitivity receive, they focus on something that is good for a short range, with the hopes that you will add many. The issue is, you end up paying far more per unit comparable routers, all for what amounts to a cheap router,with a firmware that is designed around mesh networking.

Get cheaper routers, and do an Ethernet backhaul for each of them. Ethernet is cheap, especially if you get 500-1000 foot roll, a pack of the needed plugs, and a cheap crimping tool.

If you don't have old routers, you can go with a few of those $57 AC1200 TP-Link access points.
and for the price of a 3 pack of eero, you can install 8 of those access points around the house, and have 1 AP for each room, each room of the house, and a few extras for if you need an extra in a closet or something.

February 26, 2017 | 11:14 AM - Posted by fvbounty

I paid $289 for 2 eero's around Christmas from B&H delivered...so for that price I'm very happy, one plus I've had two updates for these routers and I never had a update of the firmware with my D-Link or my TP Link routers, there is a lot of stuff attacking older routers from what I've heard so its important to have a updated router now a days!

March 12, 2017 | 04:20 PM - Posted by Wiki kumar (not verified)

Can I connect TP-Link USB adapter with this Wireless Router? If Yes so Please tell Me any Purchase link for that. Or also tell us about Driver I have TL-Wn722n USB adapter. For Example We Purchase this Router So I Need to update Tl-wn722n Driver . then i will update Driver Also thanks in Advance :)

March 12, 2017 | 04:23 PM - Posted by anii (not verified)

I think Do not need any driver for Connect this Router. Because Driver Just install in your PC one time. then you can connect your USB adapter with any Router.

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